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Vermont Distilleries Offer Free, Homemade Hand Sanitizer

Three people around a bar.
Amy Kolb Noyes
A couple from New York City stopped by the Green Mountain Distillers tasting room on Sunday. Co-owner Howie Faircloth poured them spirits as they talked about communities big and small dealing with COVID-19.

Updated 12 p.m. 3/18/2020

Amid heightened precautions around COVID-19, stores are running out of cleaning wipes, sterile gloves, face masks and hand sanitizers. But across Vermont, local distillers are taking care of one of those needs.

In the corner by the door of the tasting room at Green Mountain Distillers in Morristown, there’s a five-gallon bucket with a hand pump on top. The white plastic container looks out of place with the rustic, barrel wood decor. It looks rather … sterile.

And that’s exactly the point. It’s a bucket of hand sanitizer, mixed up at the distillery and available to anyone who brings their own jar.

“We’re hearing from a lot of restaurant owners that they didn’t have hand sanitizer for their employees and their guests,” said Howie Faircloth, co-owner of Green Mountain Distillers. “So primarily that was the drive behind it – was to try to give back to the people who support us.”

Many Stowe-area restaurants serve Green Mountain’s vodka and other spirits. The distillers thought this was a way they could help out, so they posted about it on Facebook on Sunday, when the first batch was ready. They invited anyone to come in and help themselves to what has become a hot commodity in this time of COVID-19.

“We’d like to try to keep it going, and allow the restaurants to come in and get what they need,” Faircloth said. “We’re just asking people to come and take what they need and not any more. There’s already been people coming with cases of mason jars – it’s not for resale.”

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Word spread quickly. Restaurants came in to fill their jars on Sunday. The local domestic violence shelter brought in jars, too, for their clients living in close quarters. The VFW came for some, plus a fairly steady stream of the distillery’s regular customers.

Faircloth said he's in a unique position to fill this need. The sanitizer is made from a byproduct of the distilling process.

“Well, we use our high-proof spirit, and we take an organic aloe gel and those two are combined,” he said. “And that particular batch there, we used an organic lemon extract. So that particular batch is a lemon. I don’t know if we’ll mix it up.”

With the free hand sanitizer in high demand, Faircloth said the distillery welcomes donations of the one ingredient they don’t have readily on hand:

“If anyone wants to donate aloe gel, we’ll take any aloe gel that people are willing to get for us,” he said.”

Faircloth added they’ll keep mixing up free hand sanitizer as long as there’s a need and they have the ingredients.

Down in Windsor, SILO Distillery is also producing and giving away homemade hand sanitizer.

In an email, the company explained it has been able to produce it using vegetable glycerin and 180-190 proof ethanol. The distillery is offering its hand sanitizer supply to both local food and beverage partners as well as up to 16 ounces to members of the public, and is asking people to bring their own containers, if possible.

"We understand that gathering in large groups in one place is a concern for most people," the distillery said. "We will happily meet you at your car if you call the distillery on your arrival."

In Montpelier, Barr Hill by Caledonia Spirits has been making, packaging and delivering hand sanitizer to the Vermont Foodbank. The distillery said in a Facebook post it is trying to find ways to ramp up production.

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